In this paper, I consider succinctly the main Marxist objections to Honneth’s model of critical social theory, and Honneth’s key objections to Marx-inspired models. I then seek to outline a rapprochement between the two positions, by showing how Honneth’s normative concept of recognition is not antithetical to functionalist arguments, but in fact contains a social-theoretical dimension, the idea that social reproduction and social evolution revolve around struggles around the interpretation of core societal norms. By highlighting the social theoretical side of (...) recognition, one can outline a model of critical social theory that in fact corresponds to the descriptive and normative features outlined by Marx himself. However, the price of this rapprochement for Honnethian critical theory is a greater emphasis on the division of labour as the central mechanism of social reproduction. (shrink)
In this article we examine the idea of a politics of misrecognition of working activity. We begin by introducing a distinction between the kind of recognition and misrecognition that attaches to one’s identity, and the kind of recognition and misrecognition that attaches to one’s activity. We then consider the political significance of the latter kind of recognition and misrecognition in the context of work. Drawing first on empirical research undertaken by sociologists at the Institut für Sozialforschung in Frankfurt, we argue (...) for a differentiated concept of recognition that shows the politics of misrecognition at work to be as much a matter of conflict between modes of recognition as it is a struggle for recognition as opposed to non -recognition. The differentiated concept of recognition which allows for this empirical insight owes much to Axel Honneth’s theory. But as we argue in the section that follows, this theory is ambiguous about the normative content of the expectations of recognition that are bound up with the activity of working. This in turn makes it unclear how we should understand the normative basis of the politics of the misrecognition of what one does at work. In the final sections of the article, we suggest that the psychodynamic model of work elaborated by Christophe Dejours and others at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in Paris can shed light on this matter; that is to say, it can help to clarify the normative significance and political stakes of the misrecognition of working activity. (shrink)
This volume addresses the long-standing neglect of the category of labour in critical social theory and it presents a powerful case for a new paradigm based on the anthropological significance of work and its role in shaping social bonds.
This essay discusses four books recently published by Christophe Dejours with the aim of extracting their most significant social-theoretical and philosophical implications. The first two books are two contributions by Dejours in current debates and public policy initiatives in France through the application of his psychodynamic approach to work related issues (work and violence; work and suicide). Even though these texts are shaped by the specific contexts in which they were written, they also contain broader social-theoretical insights that are quite (...) significant. In the other two books, the two volumes of his sum Travail vivant, Dejours makes explicit the fundamental theoretical foundation upon which his psychodynamic approach is based. I will attempt to demonstrate that these books have significant implications for contemporary social theory and philosophy, notably as they establish the indissoluble continuity between the corporeal and cognitive capacities of the human subject, and the importance of this insight for moral and political reflection. (shrink)
This article briefly presents some of the main features of the notion of “centrality of work” within the framework of the “psychodynamic” approach to work developed by Christophe Dejours. The paper argues that we should distinguish between at least four separate but related ways in which work can be said to be central: psychologically, in terms of gender relations, social-politically and epistemically.
This article aims to present some of the main results of contemporary French psychodynamics of work. The writings of Christophe Dejours constitute the central references in this area. His psychoanalytical approach, which is initially concerned with the impact of contemporary work practices on individual health, has implications that go well beyond the narrow psycho-pathological interest. The most significant theoretical development to have come out of Dejours's research is that of Yves Clot, whose writings will constitute the second reference point in (...) this article. The article attempts to demonstrate that the thick definition of work that Dejours and Clot operate with, as a result of their focus on its psychological function, speaks directly, in substantial and critical ways, to all disciplines with an interest in work, to philosophers, social theorists and social scientists, including economic theorists. (shrink)
This article argues that Axel Honneth’s ethics of recognition offers a robust model for a renewed critical theory of society, provided that it does not shy away from its political dimensions. First, the ethics of recognition needs to clarify its political moment at the conceptual level to remain conceptually sustainable. This requires a clarification of the notion of identity in relation to the three spheres of recognition, and a clarification of its exact place in a politics of recognition. We suggest (...) that a return to Hegel’s mature theory of subjectivity helps specify the relationship between the normative demand for autonomous identity and its realization in and through politics. (shrink)
The origins of Axel Honneth's theory of recognition lie in his earlier project to correct the conceptual confusions and empirical shortcomings of historical materialism for the purpose of an adequate post-Habermasian critical social theory. Honneth proposed to accomplish this project, most strikingly, by reconnecting critical social theory with one of its repressed philosophical sources, namely anthropological materialism. In its mature shape, however, recognition theory operates on a narrow concept of interaction, which seems to lose sight of the material mediations with (...) which intersubjective relations are imbricated. The paper argues that a circumspect return to this twofold materialist heritage could substantively correct and enrich contemporary critical theory. The paper provides an illustration of this with the paradigmatic example of work. (shrink)
This paper analyses the model of interaction at the heart of Axel Honneth's social philosophy. It argues that interaction in his mature ethics of recognition has been reduced to intercourse between human persons and that the role of nature is now missing from it. The ethics of recognition takes into account neither the material dimensions of individual and social action, nor the normative meaning of non-human persons and natural environments. The loss of nature in the mature ethics of recognition is (...) made visible through a comparison with Honneth's initial formulation of his project. As an anthropology of intersubjectivity combining the teaching of the German philosophical anthropologists and G.H. Mead, his first model sought to ground social theory in the natural preconditions of human action. The last part of the article argues that a return to Mead's theory of practical intersubjectivity informed by Merleau-Ponty's germane theory of intercorporeity provides essential conceptual tools to enable the integration of the natural and the material within the theory of recognition. (shrink)
Honneth's fundamental claim that the normativity of social orders can be found nowhere but in the very experience of those who suffer injustice leads, I argue, to a radical theory and critique of society, with the potential to provide an innovative theory of social movements and a valid alternative to political liberalism.
The paper examines briefly Kant's and Fichte's, and more thoroughly, Hegel's theses on womanhood and their social and political consequences. It shows, taking Hegel as a case study, that the idealists' conceptual frameworks should have led them to recognize the rights of women, and, importantly, in Kant's and Hegel's case, that they implicitly did so. However, they chose to repress these unwanted outcomes behind teachings that were more in line with the beliefs of their time. This tension, it is argued (...) in conclusion, is indicative of a conceptual crux that is specific to German idealism, but whose effects can still be perceived today. (shrink)